Project rumba – How do I make a good funding proposal?

Teksti | Mika Launikari

From time to time, I find myself discussing with Laurea colleagues and partners what makes a good project proposal. Of course, there is no magic formula for writing a proposal. However, remembering a few basics can lead to a good result. If you are applying for project funding for the first time, you should always ask for help and support from more experienced professionals.


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In development projects, everything starts with a good idea that has novelty value and offers a functional solution to an existing problem or clearly responds to a concrete need. Of course, an idea alone is not enough, but it must be described and justified convincingly in the project proposal.

Before starting to prepare a project proposal, it is advisable to test the idea with colleagues or partners in order to clarify its real strengths and identify potential risks. At the same time, it is important to ensure that the idea fits the chosen funding instrument and meets the criteria set by the funding body. Careful project preparation also includes checking whether a project similar to your idea has already been funded in Finland or abroad. If so, consider the angle from which the idea should be approached in the planned project.

In the early stages of preparation, it is worth defining how the project will be built around the implementation of the idea and what the objectives of the project are as a whole. If possible, time should be spent visualising and illustrating the idea and the actual project before writing the proposal. This can be done in a well-facilitated workshop using a traditional flipchart and/or digital platforms (e.g. Miro). Visualisation makes things visible and reveals the connections between the temporal and functional dimensions of the project. This creates the conditions to start drawing up a project plan that will progress consistently and to agree on the division of tasks, roles and responsibilities between the project partners.

At its best, a project is more than the sum of its parts, which is ensured by skilled and experienced project partners. When selecting partners, it is often the case that successful previous collaborations lead to new joint projects. However, there is a risk that a partner’s expertise may not be as well suited to the new project as would be desirable. In the worst case, this can become a burden on the whole project consortium, creating unnecessary tensions between partners and undermining even a good project. When a funder evaluates a project application, an appropriate and competent project consortium increases the credibility of the proposal and strengthens the implementation and impact of the project.

Budgeting is a vital part of project preparation. At the planning stage, it is not possible to know exactly, and may not be able to fully anticipate, all the possible costs that will arise from the project work. Therefore, it is a good idea to consult your organisation’s financial management on project budgeting. Financial management experts have strong expertise in budgeting and usually have a clear understanding of the requirements of different financial instruments. It is important to allocate sufficient resources to the project so that the development work is not jeopardised by a budget that is too low. A realistic budget is based on a careful cost estimate that supports the implementation and objectives of the project.

An essential part of the actual project writing is the funder’s application form. This means that you need to be able to describe your project in the way the funder requires, often within a limited number of characters per section. In general, the proposal text needs to be concise, clear and easy to understand.

Complex and overwhelming language and excessive use of jargon are not part of the project proposal. A clear presentation and consistent structure will help the reader to grasp issues such as project planning, implementation and evaluation. The evaluator needs to understand once and for all what the project idea is about and how it will be implemented in the project.

It is also important to describe the practical measures and cooperation between the project partners, the use of resources and the effectiveness of the project. The purpose of the proposal is to justify why the project is necessary and what benefits it will bring. Facts and statistics can strengthen the proposal and show that the applicant is familiar with the conditions under which the project will be carried out and the needs it will address. The purpose of the proposal is to convince the evaluator that the project is feasible and has a real chance of achieving the desired results. Therefore, the description of the project’s work plan is crucial. It is worth spending enough time on it and thinking about it together with partners.

The communication plan is an integral part of the project proposal. However, communication and information activities should not remain at too general a level, but should be described in relation to the project’s context, target groups and stakeholders, and how they contribute to the project’s impact. A good and practical communication plan will help the project to reach a wider audience and have a strong impact. These issues are described in more detail in the impact assessment and monitoring section of the proposal. The estimated quantitative and qualitative impact will help to demonstrate the significance and results of the project to the funder.

Even if several experts from different partner organisations have been involved in drafting the proposal text, it is advisable to leave the final editing to one expert. A consistent and as uniform as possible language will give the evaluator a finished impression of the proposal. When the proposal is ready and has been approved by the authorised representative of the responsible organisation, it is submitted to the funder by the specified deadline.

Information about the author:

Mika Launikari, PhD, M.Sc. (Econ.), works at Laurea University of Applied Sciences as a Senior Specialist responsible for international cooperation in higher education. During his career, he has prepared several project proposals that have received national and international funding and has participated in various roles in many Finnish and European development projects in the fields of education and working life.


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